Purpose - Body dissatisfaction (BD), or the negative self-perceptions/attitudes toward one’s own physical appearance, is commonly linked to negative health outcomes (i.e., stress, disordered eating behaviors, depression), among college women. Sorority women are especially prone to BD and associated health consequences. Social network analysis (SNA) is a theoretical framework and methodology that examines how individuals connect, interact, and influence each other, and what these connections mean for selected outcomes. Because college students are particularly impacted by their social networks, the purpose of this study was to use SNA to examine if network variables, along with behavioral and health-related variables, impacted BD scores among members of a sorority.
Methods - Sorority members completed surveys during a regularly scheduled chapter meeting (n=208, 87% White, 39.1% freshmen). Two networks were generated; participants were asked to nominate up to 5 members with whom they felt closest (close-to network) and up to 5 members with whom they spent the most time (time spent network) within their sorority. SNA assessed the relationship between BD and BMI, compulsive exercise, grade classification, and network variables for both networks. The close-to and time spent networks were also analyzed for any possible correlations. Descriptive statistics were conducted using SPSS, and quadratic assignment procedure (QAP) analyses were conducted using UCINET.
Results - QAP regression analysis revealed a significant model for the close-to network (R2=.404, p<.001) predicting BD. Compulsive exercise (β=.479, p<.001), BMI (β=.268, p<.001), grade classification (β=-.101, p=.029), and degree centrality (β=-.156, p=.006) were statistically significant predictor variables in the QAP regression model. QAP regression analysis also revealed a significant model for the time spent network (R2=.400, p<.001) predicting BD. Compulsive exercise (β=.515, p<.001), BMI (β=.259, p=.001), and closeness (β=.152, p=.005) were statistically significant predictor variables in the QAP regression model. Close-to and time spent networks were significantly correlated with each other (r=.298, p<.001).
Conclusions - While the close-to and time spent networks were correlated, only 30% of the variance was explained, meaning there must be other factors that foster closeness between sorority members than time spent together. In this sorority, members with: greater compulsive exercise scores; higher BMI; lower grade level/classification; and less connections in the sorority suffered from greater feelings of BD. Findings suggest higher degree within a sorority network may serve as a buffer for BD, as more connections may mean more social support. In addition to having more connections, being in the core of the network may be more important than number of connections when comparing results to the time spent network, as having a higher degree centrality was not a significant factor within the regression model. Additionally, members with higher BD could tend to isolate themselves from their peers more, resulting in less connections and in turn, being in the periphery of their network. Researchers or practitioners looking to improve BD among sorority members should focus on fostering social connections and integrating underclassmen into positions of leadership within sorority networks.